Dems seek first big win of Trump era today in Georgia

Progressives poured $23 million into Jon Ossoff’s campaign. House Democrats’ campaign arm sent a team to Georgia to organize the sixth congressional district months ahead of the special election there.

Now, voters will decide whether all the effort was worthwhile.

Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel are facing off Tuesday in what has become the most expensive House race in history, with the candidates, their parties and super PACs pouring more than $50 million combined into the effort to win a single House seat in the northern Atlanta suburbs.

More than 140,000 voters cast their ballots early — an astounding number for a special election, and one that nearly matches presidential contests.

The race is being viewed nationally as a gauge of whether President Donald Trump’s sagging approval ratings are a drag on Republicans that could threaten the party’s control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections.

Democrats, meanwhile, see in Georgia an early test of their strategy of trying to win typically Republican seats in suburban areas — districts that are relatively highly educated, wealthy and diverse.

Trump weighed in on Twitter late Monday and early Tuesday, attacking Ossoff for living just outside the district, claiming Ossoff will raise taxes and calling Handel a hard worker “who will never give up!”

With the inflated price tag and the 15-month lag time between the special election and the November 2018 midterms, the contest might not hold much predictive value.

But it could be a huge psychic boost for the winner’s party — and a blow for the loser’s.

If Ossoff were to win, Democrats would have a clear victory that could help keep the party’s hyper-engaged base — and donor community — energized. A loss, though, would be a major disappointment.

If Handel were to win, Republicans on Capitol Hill could feel they are on the right track — helping the GOP’s push for health care and tax reform legislation. It could also show House incumbents that they can separate themselves from Trump effectively on the campaign trail, and stave off a potential wave of retirements.

Ossoff and Handel were the top two finishers in an April 19 primary, advancing to the one-on-one runoff election.

The district has historically leaned heavily Republican. Former Rep. Tom Price, whose departure to become Trump’s health and human services secretary led to the special election, won each time he was on the ballot since 2004 with more than 60% of the vote. Mitt Romney carried the district by more than 23 points when he faced former President Barack Obama in 2012.

However, it was Trump’s collapse — besting Hillary Clinton by just 1.5 points in the district in 2016 — that led Democrats to believe it could be in play.

It’s the best shot the party has of the four House special elections this spring to win a seat that now belongs to Republicans. But in November 2018, Democrats are expected to have many better pick-up opportunities. According to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index, there are 71 Republican-held districts that have less GOP-leaning electorates than Georgia’s sixth district.

Polls close in Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties — the three that include part of the district — at 7 p.m. ET.

Follow this story

Trump shadows over Georgia’s 6th district run-off

As all eyes turn to the race in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, voters there will be happy when the run-off election between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff is over.

“I think the people in this district and Atlanta as a whole, I think they are probably tired of hearing about it but they need to pay attention because it matters right now,” Jade Morey, a Handel supporter, told CNN outside a campaign event in the final days before Tuesday’s election.

An influx of money from both Democrats and Republicans has focused attention on the historically conservative district, and both sides expect it to be tight.

President Donald Trump’s narrow victory there in November’s presidential election gave Democrats an opening to flip the district to their side, but Republicans are putting up a fight.

With more than $50 million spent between the candidates, their parties and super PACs, it has become the most expensive House race ever.

“It’s a microcosm of what is coming down the road in 2018. We want to flip this district, we want to flip 25 districts to get the majority back in the house,” Craig Rusert, an Ossoff volunteer, told CNN.

Although both Handel and Ossoff have mostly avoided talking about Trump directly, some voters see the race in the shadow of Trump’s divisiveness.

Voter perspectives

CNN spent time with voters on opposite sides of the Congressional race, many with strong feelings about Trump.

Republican retiree Miriam Asper told CNN that she feels that Handel’s views reflect her own.

“I really like Trump and I feel good about what he’s doing,” Asper told CNN. “I feel that our country right now is safe, and I feel that we can go down the street now not worrying about what’s going to happen to us, and I like that feeling.”

Lee Roberts, a general contractor who used to be Republican and now leans Democrat, supports Ossoff.

“He’s fiscally conservative and socially moderate and that most reflects my position,” Roberts told CNN. “With the current executive branch being controlled by Trump, I almost see it as being dangerous to have a Republican-controlled Congress.”

Both Asper and Roberts are bothered by the divisiveness in today’s politics, put place the blame with different parties.

“I love this country and I feel like the news, with the Democrats, is trying to make Donald Trump not be able to do what he needs to do,” Asper said.

Her husband Bob, agreed: “I’m afraid that the Democrats are totally focused on destroying Trump rather doing their jobs, doing what’s good for the country. They don’t really have a plan other than get Trump.”

“I don’t support the Trump administration, I think that he has divided our country both politically and socially,” Roberts said. “To have our President denouncing Obamacare and almost wishing and hoping that it fails, I don’t know that he appreciates that he’s saying: ‘I hope people die.'”

Though both Handel and Ossoff have tried to keep the focus on specific issues like health care and the economy, voters like Asper and Roberts see larger implications for the future in their vote.

Asper told CNN Ossoff worries her because of his lack of experience at 30 years old.

“I want the right people in our government,” Asper said. “We’ve had a good life and I want it to be the same for our children and our grandchildren.”

For Roberts, Handel’s agenda is tied too closely with Trump’s.

“She wants to forward the Trump agenda,” Roberts said. “She’s focused on how electing her as a representative will help Trump.”

Follow this story

Tropical storm warning issued for Louisiana’s Gulf coast

A tropical storm warning has been issued for a section of Louisiana’s coast as a weather system approaches from the Gulf of Mexico.

The warning is in effect from Cameron, Louisiana, to Intracoastal City.

The system’s maximum sustained winds early Tuesday are near 40 mph. The National Hurricane Center said some slight strengthening is possible before the system reaches the coast, either late Wednesday or Wednesday night.

As of 5 a.m. Tuesday, the system is centered about 305 miles south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River and is moving northwest near 8 mph.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Bret is moving along South America’s northern coast. Its maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph with weakening expected to begin later in the day.

Be sure to download the Local 10 Hurricane Survival Guide to keep you safe before, during and after a storm. 

Remember to stay up to date on the all the latest storm news by downloading the Max Tracker app for iOS and ANDROID.

Follow this story

5 things to watch in Georgia’s special election

Democrats have been desperate to deal President Donald Trump a real setback at the ballot box for months — and all their hopes are riding on Tuesday’s House election in Georgia.

In what’s become the most expensive House race in history, both Democrats and Republicans have tons at stake.

A win by Democrat Jon Ossoff will give his party a crucial proof point that Trump’s unpopularity is damaging Republicans up and down the ballot — and make it much harder GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill to tie their own political fortunes to Trump on health care, tax reform and more. It would also give progressives who pumped $23 million into Ossoff’s campaign something to celebrate.

A win by Republican Karen Handel, meanwhile, would give Trump and Republicans confidence in their agenda. And it would deliver a sharp blow to Democrats who had seen the race as their last, best shot at a special election win that would pump their base up and help them draw top-notch candidates for the 2018 midterms.

Ossoff and Handel were the top two finishers in an April 19 primary, and advanced to the June 20 one-on-one runoff. The polls in Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties — the three where the sixth district House seat is located — close at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Here are five things to watch in Georgia’s special election:

Will Republicans show up? Would they vote for Ossoff?

In ordinary years, this is no swing district. Former Rep. Tom Price — whose departure to become Trump’s health and human services secretary opened the seat up — won by at least 23 percentage points every time he was on the ballot since 2004. Mitt Romney carried the district by 23 points in 2012.

The only reason Democrats have even an inkling it could be competitive is that Trump collapsed here, besting Hillary Clinton by just 1.5 points last fall.

That all means there are many more people who typically vote Republican in the district than Democrats.

It’s created a rare scenario where the huge early vote turnout — 140,000 people have already cast their ballots, including 36,000 who didn’t vote at all in the April primary — could actually benefit Republicans.

The question is whether these scores of what have historically been reliably GOP voters are separating this race from their distaste for Trump and sticking with Handel — or have been turned off more broadly by the Republican brand under Trump and are willing to back Ossoff.

The 36,000 voters who did not participate in the primary are perhaps the most baffling to both parties. Both sides have placed major emphasis on turning out voters who participated in Georgia’s presidential primaries last year but did not vote in April — and there are more Republicans than Democrats in that pool of potential voters.

What it all means: No one is quite sure what to expect, aside from a close race.

Democrats’ focus: African-American turnout

Democrats have placed a particular emphasis on turning out Atlanta-area African-American voters. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has pumped hundreds of thousands into ads on black radio stations and digital ads, as well as $325,000 for get-out-the-vote mail pieces targeting those voters.

The makeup of the electorate is critical to watch. Ossoff has endorsements from two leading African-American Georgia Democrats — Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, and Rep. Hank Johnson. But he is also just 30 years old and does not have long-lasting political connections through the district.

To win, Ossoff will need something approaching presidential-level turnout from Democratic base voters — and African-Americans are a crucial component of that base.

If Ossoff wins: Democrats will eye a majority

Ossoff’s campaign has been a testing ground for Democrats’ hopes that Trump’s unpopularity will allow them to compete for GOP-held seats in suburban areas across America.

Many of those districts are actually less Republican than Georgia’s sixth district. What they tend to have in common: Relatively highly educated, wealthy and diverse populations, plus people who — like thousands in Ossoff’s district — voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and then backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

An Ossoff win would be a proof point suggesting that Democrats are on the right track.

It would also be important in two other significant ways: Online, small-dollar fundraising has shattered records so far this year, and an Ossoff win would likely keep that money flowing in. And Democrats are deep into recruiting their crop of challengers for GOP seats in 2018; an Ossoff victory could embolden more top prospects to jump in.

If Handel wins: House GOP leaders can breathe easy

The outcome of Georgia’s contest is likely to become a prism through which congressional Republicans view Trump — a reality with major policy and political implications.

A spate of retirements from nervous incumbents who lack the stomach for a bitter re-election battle could be avoidable: A Handel victory could show worried party members — particularly those in suburban districts that Democrats are targeting — that they can still rely on a strategy of turning out their base in Republican-leaning districts, even if Trump is unpopular there. She’ll have even helped write the playbook, after relentlessly working to tie Ossoff to Nancy Pelosi and hitting him on national security.

It would also make life easier for congressional GOP leadership, which can’t afford to shed many votes from nervous members if it is to advance tax reform and health care legislation in the coming months.

But make no mistake: Republicans are closely watching the results to see just how much of a drag Trump is on Handel. Even a razor’s-edge win in a district where GOP congressional candidates typically top 60% would be a stark reminder of the wave potential of the 2018 midterms. After all, 71 incumbent Republicans sit in districts that are — per the Cook Political Report’s partisan voter index — less GOP-leaning than Georgia’s 6th District.

A clear Handel win could show Republican lawmakers that there’s no need to distance themselves from Trump — but anything short of that could send them scurrying from the President.

Was Ossoff too liberal or too moderate?

Ossoff became a fundraising phenomenon because he represented progressives’ best chance of swiping a House seat from Republicans early in the Trump presidency. He raised more than $23 million that way.

But if you watch Ossoff on the campaign trail or in TV ads, you’d never know it.

Through the campaign, Ossoff was hesitant to even say Trump’s name. Instead, he sold himself as a moderate who would happily work across the aisle, who fretted about deficit spending and who wasn’t even sure he’d vote for Pelosi for House speaker.

This reality has Sen. Bernie Sanders’ liberal wing of the party concerned that the Democratic establishment is recruiting and running too many moderates — and the establishment worried that Sanders’ insurgency could view a loss as proof the party needs to embrace a much more aggressive, populist, Sanders-like message.

Sanders himself fed this narrative when he pointedly answered, “I don’t know,” when the Wall Street Journal asked him this spring whether Ossoff is a progressive. “Some Democrats are progressive, and some Democrats are not,” Sanders said — though he later clarified that he does support Ossoff.

This could worsen tensions that already exist between the Sanders-aligned left, which fumed over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s refusal to spend heavily on races in Kansas and Montana, and the DCCC.

Follow this story

Stars head to Miami Beach for American Black Film Festival

Terrence Howard — or Lucious Lyon as he’s known to millions of “Empire” fans — was in town Friday for the 21st annual American Black Film Festival. 

The ABFF opened in Miami Beach on Wednesday with the world premiere of “Girls Trip” and came to a close on Sunday with a screening of the Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me.” 

The festival also included discussions with stars such as hip-hop artist Common, “Girls Trip” actress Regina Hall and “Empire” star Tasha Smith.

Pre-screenings from television shows such as “Power,”  and “Queen Sugar” also took place. Among those who shared their craft with attendees were Stephanie Allain, the producer behind “Hustle & Flow” and “Dear White People.”

The ABFF focuses on the work of black members of the film industry, which is something entertainers who attended the event support. 

“It’s incumbent for us who have a face in the industry to come back and be the platform,”  actor Omari Hardwick from the show “Power” said.

 

Follow this story

Broward County steps up efforts to spray for mosquitoes after rainy weather

With all of the rain that has hit South Florida in the last few weeks, Broward County officials said they have been getting thousands of requests per day to come spray for mosquitos.

Now they’re putting extra people on the streets to try and get control of the spread.

“I got bites on my leg, down by my ankle and didn’t even know I got them,” Davie resident Mary Greg said.

Greg has lived in her Davie home for nearly 30 years. She said she can only remember one other time that the mosquitoes have gotten this bad.

“It was a very hot, rainy, humid time and it was the same way, and them mosquitos just follow you,” she said.

Dr. Anh Ton is in charge of helping plan Broward County’s attack to take down the swarms the area has been seeing lately. He said the rainy weather has brought more than just the normal Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes that people in the area are used to seeing.

“Many mosquitoes are not the one that are normally breeding in this area,” Ton said. “They are actually the Salt Marsh mosquitoes that typically breed in the Everglades, and they get blown in. They came in with the storms.”

Because of the extra pests, Broward County has trained extra crews to help cover more area faster in addition to their normally scheduled spraying.

They’re also treating any standing water with larvicide to help prevent new mosquitoes from breeding.

While they try to cover as much ground as possible, Ton said residents can help by taking steps to protect their homes.

“Walk around your house. If you have bromeliads, rinse them out or introduce a larvicide in that area. If you have any standing water, empty it out or put larvicide in there,” Ton said.

Although the Salt Marsh mosquitoes are more aggressive, Ton said they do not carry diseases like the Zika virus.

He also said the county is not using the controversial naled insecticide and said that the chemicals they’re using to stop the spread are safe to the public.

 

Follow this story